The brainy broadcaster with a big heart
Hypnotized by the magic of radio from an early age, Layani Elias always knew he wanted to be a broadcaster.
Despite his aunt, Segomotso Sebapalo’s hope that he would follow in her footsteps and pursue a career in teaching, Elias stuck to his guns, followed his heart and enrolled in a broadcasting course after completing secondary school.
Proving himself a natural, in his second year at Limkokwing University, Elias got a part time job at BTV Educational Broadcasting show hosting the Youth Basket Programme.
Instant success was to follow, the youngster marking his debut year on radio by winning MISA’s (Media Institute of Southern Africa) Broadcast Journalist of the Year for Educational Issues in 2013.
Later that same year, the 27-year-old Goshwe-born broadcaster founded The Broadcasting Organisation (TBO), which, as you will discover in this interview with The Voice’s Portia Mlilo, has become a revelation in Primary Schools across the country.
Q. First things first, how did your love for broadcasting come about?
A. I used to listen to Radio Botswana with my grandparents at Nsuswane settlements and Last Rakgasa’s voice inspired me to be a broadcaster.
I wanted to be a radio presenter! We had career fair when I was doing Form 5 at Mater Spei College where I met Pinkie Moloko from RB1 and she shared the requirements for broadcasting course.
After finishing my BGCSE I enrolled for Broadcasting TV and Radio at Limkokwing University.
I love broadcasting with all my heart.
Q. What other skills do you have apart from broadcasting?
A. I also did sign language.
Upon completing my broadcasting studies, I worked at Ramotswa Secondary School as a teacher aid on special education for a year.
I interacted a lot with deaf students while I was doing my secondary education at Tashatha Junior School so I developed interest in learning signs.
I got a full time job as a Producer at Educational Broadcasting and quit teaching.
Q. You won a MISA award right at the start of your career – you must have felt on top of the world?
A. It was a great achievement and motivation.
I was still at school so it made me believe I had made the right career choice.
Among the nominees was one of the veteran journalists, Reginald Richardson and it showed I was doing the right thing with the little experience I had.
Q. What is The Broadcasters Organisation’s (TBO) mandate?
A. I started this organisation in 2013 working with other broadcasting students and teachers.
Our aim is to promote education, broadcasting or media and ICT issues among young people.
Primary School Leaving Examination results were very poor in 2013 and we believed our organisation would help to improve our education.
We came up with projects like the National Broadcasting Summit which focuses on languages.
Languages help our students to learn how to read and write.
During the event, we have a competition-like scenario where students research, write and make presentations because we also want to build their confidence.
Q. How does the National Broadcasting Summit improve students’ results?
A. The Ministry of Basic Education is in a new phase of entering into outcome based education.
The activities under this programme, debate, quiz, new review, research, make a child to be confident and at the end we have a global competitive product.
We also have other IT programmes where students learn how to use a computer at an early stage as the world is going digital and it is important to acquire such skills.
Q. What was the public’s response when you formed TBO, especially considering how young you were?
A. It was not easy because people did not understand what we wanted to do.
I remember attending SADC Awards Gender Protocol where I met the late Beata Kasale and Keabonye Ntsabane and they wanted to know how we fuse issues of gender in our organisation.
They were very happy with our mandate and encouraged me to register it.
I remember at Notwane Primary School selling the idea to South East Head Teachers; when they heard we were broadcasting students we were told there was no money to fund the project.
They couldn’t believe us when we told them we are doing this for free!
Q. Why did you choose to work with primary schools?
A. Education starts at grassroots level.
If you look at the students we started mentoring in 2013, they are doing well in their education; some are even studying abroad.
We now work with 290 schools across the country.
We monitor their results every year to see if there is an improvement or not and come up with solutions.
Q. How do you manage all those schools, do you have enough resources?
A. We are currently 45 and eight board members and it is not easy to manage all 290 schools.
We have a programme in schools called Destiny Shapers, which helps manage our initiatives.
In each school we have two teachers called Destiny Shapers who drive the initiative.
Q. How do you empower teachers?
A. There is no way you can expect students to excel if you don’t empower teachers.
We have awards for teachers to motivate them and organise workshops. We bring them together, where they share ideas which can help others achieve 100%.
We are in the process of partnering with universities that offer broadcasting and project management for teachers’ capacity building.
Q. Tell us about the Matshwao System, the software which TBO developed. How does it work?
A. It is very good software. It has reduced teachers’ workload instead of recording results in books, they put them in a computer.
After entering results in the system, the software make comments, calculates percentages and prints out the report.
It is known as Botswana Insurance Company (BIC) Matshwao System because they have funded the software since 2016 to update it and train teachers.
Q. What kind of support do you get from the Ministry of Basic Education?
A. The support is overwhelming.
They allowed us to work with teachers and students and it shows they believe in what we are doing.
They sponsor some of our events like National Teaching and Learning Symposium, where we go in-depth analysing the results every February and then come up with solutions.
Q. Your organisation recently held Destiny Shapers Awards, why is it important to have them?
A. This started in 2013 with only five schools and now all 290 schools hold them.
Students and teachers write examinations to contest for the awards.
These awards are geared towards improving academic excellence and motivating teachers to love their job.
We have an examination committee which prepares PSLE mock exams for all the subjects and we use it to project final exam results.
Last year’s best PSLE student was the best in Destiny Shapers awards.
Q. What makes a good broadcaster?
A. You should have good listening skills and be quick to respond.
One should be eager to know what is happening around them and the world.
You have to be passionate about your job and be a researcher.
Q. What are the organisation’s future plans?
A. We want to see TBO penetrating Africa, working with other countries.
Our plan is also to have an educational channel or platform where we produce African education content.
That’s our dream. Currently we run our organisation in a briefcase without an office but since people have started recognising us it is promising.
We will find space soon!
Q. Who is your inspiration?
A. My inspiration comes from my family.
I have a family of hard workers and committed people.
I also draw my inspiration from my Deputy Project Director Kaone Moana – she doesn’t fear risks and challenges.
Q. Thank God it’s Friday, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. We have TBO team building camp from Friday, which ends on Saturday.
Sunday, as always, I will be at church.